Flash Games Are Best?

I am beginning to think that Flash games are going to be a great place for Indie developers to find a huge audience and make a living. In fact, I have been giving a game design presentation called Games for the Non-Hardcore, in which I outline a lot of facts about Flash and why it is a great platform for gaming and developers. I will be turning that presentation into blog posts in the near future, but in the meantime, I could not resist putting up this comic from xkcd.
Flash Games Are Best
What this depicts is just one a many, many reasons Flash could be in your future.

-Jeff Tunnell, Game Maker
Make It Big In Games

  • http://jayisgames.com Jay

    I've been saying that for years. ;)

    Looking forward to reading more of what you have to say about this, Jeff!

  • http://jayisgames.com Jay

    I've been saying that for years. ;)

    Looking forward to reading more of what you have to say about this, Jeff!

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      Glad you agree, but I was hoping for a little more WTF? in the comments.

      • http://jayisgames.com Jay

        WTF?!

  • http://www.subreal.net timaste

    I agree! I can relate with that comic. I have the super duper SLI 8800 GTX setup, the Xbox360, Wii, DS, etc. I spend 80% of my time playing Nintendo DS and Flash games lately it seems, or short games off XBLA. I just seem to have more fun, I'm falling out of the “curve”.

    As a developer, I realized making Flash Games isn't far from the games I always wanted to make growing up. By the time I was a developer, games were getting extremely complicated, requiring legions of developers spending 2-3 years of their life to work on a tiny part of a game that only gets played for two weeks and replaced by the next hot thing that comes out. Talking to several developers of the same age at various companies I actually get the same response, they have lots more fun creating smaller, more rewarding projects.

  • http://www.subreal.net timaste

    I agree! I can relate with that comic. I have the super duper SLI 8800 GTX setup, the Xbox360, Wii, DS, etc. I spend 80% of my time playing Nintendo DS and Flash games lately it seems, or short games off XBLA. I just seem to have more fun, I'm falling out of the “curve”.

    As a developer, I realized making Flash Games isn't far from the games I always wanted to make growing up. By the time I was a developer, games were getting extremely complicated, requiring legions of developers spending 2-3 years of their life to work on a tiny part of a game that only gets played for two weeks and replaced by the next hot thing that comes out. Talking to several developers of the same age at various companies I actually get the same response, they have lots more fun creating smaller, more rewarding projects.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    Glad you agree, but I was hoping for a little more WTF? in the comments.

  • http://jayisgames.com Jay

    WTF?!

  • 321f

    I have also thought this, for the last two years or so ;) Flash is the lowest common denominator for a game today, there's nothing that comes close. Even with all the limitations and tradeoffs it makes, it's a more developer-friendly platform than console hardware or PC/OpenGL/DirectX.

    In just the last week, I joined an early-stage startup that's trying to take Flash game distribution platforms to the next level, above individual game portals. I'm happy to see some more confirmation that the market's a hot one.

  • 321f

    I have also thought this, for the last two years or so ;) Flash is the lowest common denominator for a game today, there's nothing that comes close. Even with all the limitations and tradeoffs it makes, it's a more developer-friendly platform than console hardware or PC/OpenGL/DirectX.

    In just the last week, I joined an early-stage startup that's trying to take Flash game distribution platforms to the next level, above individual game portals. I'm happy to see some more confirmation that the market's a hot one.

  • jgostylo

    I have friends that are working on flash 3d engines. Computing power will turn this into a stark reality and we will all be back to where we started.

    The great thing about Flash was that the global expectation for what your game should look like was so low. There was visual forgiveness in the community! But everything old will be new again and the brilliant engineers will make tools that push public opinion towards the idea that fun games don't matter as much as professionally polished games. People won't give fun games the time of day without the large budget. Make your fun cheap games while you can. We'll be back in the quagmire soon enough.

    Is that the WTF you were looking for Jeff?

  • jgostylo

    I have friends that are working on flash 3d engines. Computing power will turn this into a stark reality and we will all be back to where we started.

    The great thing about Flash was that the global expectation for what your game should look like was so low. There was visual forgiveness in the community! But everything old will be new again and the brilliant engineers will make tools that push public opinion towards the idea that fun games don't matter as much as professionally polished games. People won't give fun games the time of day without the large budget. Make your fun cheap games while you can. We'll be back in the quagmire soon enough.

    Is that the WTF you were looking for Jeff?

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      Not the WTF I was looking for, but close. I agree game production values will go up, but I also think people are starting to become more forgiving of non-cutting edge graphics. Good art and production values are required, but shaders and HDR are not. Wii tennis is the example I have been using. It is one of the best “selling” games of all time, yet the characters don't even have arms. That would not be acceptable to the hard core gamer, but normal people loved the game.

      • http://coderhump.com Ben Garney

        We're at the tipping point. Everyone knows that you can do great games of any genre in Flash, but no one thinks anyone else knows. In a year it will be common knowledge.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    Not the WTF I was looking for, but close. I agree game production values will go up, but I also think people are starting to become more forgiving of non-cutting edge graphics. Good art and production values are required, but shaders and HDR are not. Wii tennis is the example I have been using. It is one of the best “selling” games of all time, yet the characters don't even have arms. That would not be acceptable to the hard core gamer, but normal people loved the game.

  • http://coderhump.com Ben Garney

    We're at the tipping point. Everyone knows that you can do great games of any genre in Flash, but no one thinks anyone else knows. In a year it will be common knowledge.

  • http://bzztbomb.com/noise/ Brian Richardson

    I think the tech is definitely there. It's more of a business challenge. I just don't see how you make money with it yet. Advertising? It seems that the big flash games that I can think of (N, Linerider) have used the Flash versions as springboards to closed platforms (Xbox live, DS) where you can make a little cash.

    I guess it comes down to the problem of how do you make money when its easy to copy and redistribute bits.

  • http://bzztbomb.com/noise/ Brian Richardson

    I think the tech is definitely there. It's more of a business challenge. I just don't see how you make money with it yet. Advertising? It seems that the big flash games that I can think of (N, Linerider) have used the Flash versions as springboards to closed platforms (Xbox live, DS) where you can make a little cash.

    I guess it comes down to the problem of how do you make money when its easy to copy and redistribute bits.

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      Ah, that is where the “secret sauce” comes in. Without giving away all of my future blog posts, there are many networks just crying out for good Flash content. Kongregate, Mini-Clip, Newgrounds, etc. are paying money for games. Social game networks such as SGN and Zynga are paying money now. Ads are definitely part of the mix. Of course, it is not exactly cut and dried, but that is why it is a great time to be getting into the market.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    Ah, that is where the “secret sauce” comes in. Without giving away all of my future blog posts, there are many networks just crying out for good Flash content. Kongregate, Mini-Clip, Newgrounds, etc. are paying money for games. Social game networks such as SGN and Zynga are paying money now. Ads are definitely part of the mix. Of course, it is not exactly cut and dried, but that is why it is a great time to be getting into the market.

  • Josh_Engebretson

    I've been playing a lot of PSX and N64 games via emulation lately. The whole time thinking “Papervision3D” could totally handle this… Flash is indeed a “virtual console” with a lot of the issues worked out… and on the cheap. As a bonus, you CAN'T code in C++ with it client side… that is always a plus in my book :)

    I'm really excited to see what you guys are working on!

  • Josh_Engebretson

    I've been playing a lot of PSX and N64 games via emulation lately. The whole time thinking “Papervision3D” could totally handle this… Flash is indeed a “virtual console” with a lot of the issues worked out… and on the cheap. As a bonus, you CAN'T code in C++ with it client side… that is always a plus in my book :)

    I'm really excited to see what you guys are working on!

  • JeremyAlessi

    I think Flash is interesting and either it or something like it will be THE Virtual Console (and let's face it the Virtual Console is coming). I think a dedicated games emulator that runs on all platforms would be a lot more useful because Flash is a pig (maybe the latest revisions are better). If you look at some of the old console system and arcade emulators though they run very fast because they are dedicated to the task of gameplay first and foremost.

  • JeremyAlessi

    I think Flash is interesting and either it or something like it will be THE Virtual Console (and let's face it the Virtual Console is coming). I think a dedicated games emulator that runs on all platforms would be a lot more useful because Flash is a pig (maybe the latest revisions are better). If you look at some of the old console system and arcade emulators though they run very fast because they are dedicated to the task of gameplay first and foremost.

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      Ahh, finally some WTF! Flash is not a pig. If you have not looked at Flash lately, it is a lot better than you think. Flash 10 just released. It has shaders, better networking, OOP language, etc. You can make really good games here. Many developers are doing it, and we will help show the way… Soon.

    • JeremyAlessi

      BTW, have you seen this?

      http://fantasticcontraption.com/

      I figured you'd get a kick out of it if you haven't already.

      As for Josh's comment – “Flash games are cheap and easy to make (there's a ton of talent out there at the ready, as opposed to C++ object oriented 3D programming)”

      Seriously, the object-oriented and 3D aspects of C++ aren't the difficult parts. You can write great OO code for a 3D game with numerous other higher level languages and it's cake. C++ is too close to the machine though to be very useful for a designer. Once there's some abstraction in place it becomes easier to utilize OO and 3D for actual gameplay, C++ or otherwise. I guess by that point though most designers just figure they'll hand it off to a traditional programmer. The point though is that OO and 3D are not the enemy. If you're writing Flash games you'll still be using both.

      • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

        I have played Fantastic Contraption and it is awesome! Right on about the C++ OO, 3D programming. It is not C++, but ActionScript, and it is OO, and that is the way the new generation Flash games will be built. Still, the accessibility of Flash for non-experienced, but creative developers is where a lot of great game ideas have come from.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    Ahh, finally some WTF! Flash is not a pig. If you have not looked at Flash lately, it is a lot better than you think. Flash 10 just released. It has shaders, better networking, OOP language, etc. You can make really good games here. Many developers are doing it, and we will help show the way… Soon.

  • http://www.redthumbgames.com joshuadallman

    The tipping point for me is when companies can post case studies of how they are “making it big” in flash games. I don't think that's yet the case – but it will be. Right now, you can make a few thousand here and there with game sponsorships from the portals, some additional revenue from ad-based formats, and there's the “Hollywood” possibility of “going big” like N or LineRider, but I don't yet see companies that are totally making it on Flash games, at least not without a dedicated full time staff of incredibly talented (and therefore usually incredibly paid) Flash developers and lots of non-game ad work to support the bread and butter of the business.

    Now, portfolio diversification which includes Flash games, possibly even as a majority or significant portion, absolutely. But there's still more money to be made in cell phone games than flash games. Here in South Africa, there's way more people with cell phones than internet access. And even Flash games take forever to download on our slow and dodgy internet connections. Now Flash on cell phones? Heck yeah.

    Also, Flash is a technology, not a singular platform; therefore it is technology that can be deployed on multiple platforms. For example, you can make a Flash game for browsers for the portals, and this is the typical “flash game model” that we know. But you can also make Flash games for the download try-and-buy market (see: Ciao Bella), you can make online Flash-based MMO virtual worlds (see: ZooKazoo), and yes you can even already make Flash games specifically for phone sets (see: iPhone Flash games). N for console was a re-make and not a port, but there's no reason consoles won't one day natively support Flash too (to ensure competitiveness with PC's and to expand their “virtual console” download libraries).

    Some bottom line take-aways for me, is that number one, Flash has a HUGE install user base, number two, Flash games are cheap and easy to make (there's a ton of talent out there at the ready, as opposed to C++ object oriented 3D programming), number three, flash games are small and fast to download (for most) and accessible to play and easy to virally spread via URL's (that's a long #3), and number four, it's a vibrant, creative, exciting, cutting edge market (as proof I have yet to meet a game developer worth their salt who can't name at least one cutting edge Flash game, my own favorite: Beethoven's Hair).

  • http://www.redthumbgames.com joshuadallman

    The tipping point for me is when companies can post case studies of how they are “making it big” in flash games. I don't think that's yet the case – but it will be. Right now, you can make a few thousand here and there with game sponsorships from the portals, some additional revenue from ad-based formats, and there's the “Hollywood” possibility of “going big” like N or LineRider, but I don't yet see companies that are totally making it on Flash games, at least not without a dedicated full time staff of incredibly talented (and therefore usually incredibly paid) Flash developers and lots of non-game ad work to support the bread and butter of the business.

    Now, portfolio diversification which includes Flash games, possibly even as a majority or significant portion, absolutely. But there's still more money to be made in cell phone games than flash games. Here in South Africa, there's way more people with cell phones than internet access. And even Flash games take forever to download on our slow and dodgy internet connections. Now Flash on cell phones? Heck yeah.

    Also, Flash is a technology, not a singular platform; therefore it is technology that can be deployed on multiple platforms. For example, you can make a Flash game for browsers for the portals, and this is the typical “flash game model” that we know. But you can also make Flash games for the download try-and-buy market (see: Ciao Bella), you can make online Flash-based MMO virtual worlds (see: ZooKazoo), and yes you can even already make Flash games specifically for phone sets (see: iPhone Flash games). N for console was a re-make and not a port, but there's no reason consoles won't one day natively support Flash too (to ensure competitiveness with PC's and to expand their “virtual console” download libraries).

    Some bottom line take-aways for me, is that number one, Flash has a HUGE install user base, number two, Flash games are cheap and easy to make (there's a ton of talent out there at the ready, as opposed to C++ object oriented 3D programming), number three, flash games are small and fast to download (for most) and accessible to play and easy to virally spread via URL's (that's a long #3), and number four, it's a vibrant, creative, exciting, cutting edge market (as proof I have yet to meet a game developer worth their salt who can't name at least one cutting edge Flash game, my own favorite: Beethoven's Hair).

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      Insightful, Josh. I agree that you can't quite do it yet, unless you get picked up by the “bigs”. But, it is becoming clear that Flash games will become the way to success. As I have stated many times, I see game development being much more like being in a rock band than making movies. Find a couple of like minded people, eat bean and weenies, sleep on the floor, don't go out to movies, and make your masterpiece. If it is good, you will be rewarded.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    Insightful, Josh. I agree that you can't quite do it yet, unless you get picked up by the “bigs”. But, it is becoming clear that Flash games will become the way to success. As I have stated many times, I see game development being much more like being in a rock band than making movies. Find a couple of like minded people, eat bean and weenies, sleep on the floor, don't go out to movies, and make your masterpiece. If it is good, you will be rewarded.

  • James Urquhart

    After taking a dip into web development with the likes of Ruby on Rails and Django, i can definitely see where you are coming from.

    As in, some of the more successful web startups in the past few years have concentrated on simplicity, agility, and “getting real”. Something which i think is far easier to apply when making a Flash game.

    You don't have to mess around with monolithic and complicated engines, compilers and pipelines. You just make your art, apply some logic to it, and hey presto! You have a game which you can target to practically the whole internet market.

    Generally i think it is interesting to see how powerful the web (not to mention flash) as a platform has become recently. There are even examples of people porting old DOS games over to run on Flash ( e.g. http://www.wieringsoftware.nl/flash/charlie/ ). Crazy!

  • James Urquhart

    After taking a dip into web development with the likes of Ruby on Rails and Django, i can definitely see where you are coming from.

    As in, some of the more successful web startups in the past few years have concentrated on simplicity, agility, and “getting real”. Something which i think is far easier to apply when making a Flash game.

    You don't have to mess around with monolithic and complicated engines, compilers and pipelines. You just make your art, apply some logic to it, and hey presto! You have a game which you can target to practically the whole internet market.

    Generally i think it is interesting to see how powerful the web (not to mention flash) as a platform has become recently. There are even examples of people porting old DOS games over to run on Flash ( e.g. http://www.wieringsoftware.nl/flash/charlie/ ). Crazy!

  • JeremyAlessi

    BTW, have you seen this?

    http://fantasticcontraption.com/

    I figured you'd get a kick out of it if you haven't already.

    As for Josh's comment – “Flash games are cheap and easy to make (there's a ton of talent out there at the ready, as opposed to C++ object oriented 3D programming)”

    Seriously, the object-oriented and 3D aspects of C++ aren't the difficult parts. You can write great OO code for a 3D game with numerous other higher level languages and it's cake. C++ is too close to the machine though to be very useful for a designer. Once there's some abstraction in place it becomes easier to utilize OO and 3D for actual gameplay, C++ or otherwise. I guess by that point though most designers just figure they'll hand it off to a traditional programmer. The point though is that OO and 3D are not the enemy. If you're writing Flash games you'll still be using both.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    I have played Fantastic Contraption and it is awesome! Right on about the C++ OO, 3D programming. It is not C++, but ActionScript, and it is OO, and that is the way the new generation Flash games will be built. Still, the accessibility of Flash for non-experienced, but creative developers is where a lot of great game ideas have come from.

  • http://www.flashgamelicense.com Chris

    For any indie devs wanting to make money with Flash games, I suggest checking out http://www.flashgamelicense.com. It's a bit of a plug, but we have helped indie developers make over $100,000 a month for nearly a year now through sponsorships and licensing. We also offer consulting services to fully monetize games and sites (we actually helped out a little with fantastic contraption which I saw linked above :) )

  • http://www.flashgamelicense.com Chris

    For any indie devs wanting to make money with Flash games, I suggest checking out http://www.flashgamelicense.com. It's a bit of a plug, but we have helped indie developers make over $100,000 a month for nearly a year now through sponsorships and licensing. We also offer consulting services to fully monetize games and sites (we actually helped out a little with fantastic contraption which I saw linked above :) )

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      Chris, nothing wrong with plugging this service in relation to this article. I might even want to do a blog article on your service. I think it is a great idea.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    Chris, nothing wrong with plugging this service in relation to this article. I might even want to do a blog article on your service. I think it is a great idea.

  • http://www.flobzoo.com play online games

    Well you bet right my friend. Flash games are really popular since miniclip.com came the number one flash game website. The flash technology allows 3D graphist to embed 3D effects in flash. More than that, flash games are FREE and you even can play multiplayer games!

  • http://www.virtujuegos.com/ Juegos Online

    i have an xbox 360 and i spend more time one my flash games site, playing!!

  • http://www.alexplay.com flash games

    Shockwave games are better than flash games, lately we can see games with very nice 3d graphics using shockwave. But is very difficult build these games…

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    The problem with Shockwave games is that not enough people have the plug in. Flash is ubiquitous.

    • http://coderhump.com Ben Garney

      Penetration rates lay things out clearly: Shockwave is at 50%. Flash is at 98%.

      In addition, if you write a Flash game, anyone with a decent CPU can play it. Shockwave content requires a GPU, working drivers, and other goodies. Just from a hardware perspective, Flash is the safer bet.

  • imre

    While Flash definitely is a great platform for game development, I'm not entirely sure that it is the future. I'm not sure about the opposite either though… Anyway, some points to consider:

    1. Playing simpler, browser based games is not directly connected to Flash. Yes, at this moment most of such games are created in Flash, but this might change.

    2. As for development being much easier in Flash, then in C++, for Flash is more high-level… Yeah, there is some truth in this, but actually C++ can be much higher-level than most people think. You just need to compare Flash against C++ + a suitable selected set of libraries. Comparing anything against vanilla C++ is pretty dumb, as there's a totally different philosophy behind these languages. C++ doesn't want to give you nice ready solutions, instead it gives you tools so that you can create those solutions as libraries — or use such library solutions created by other people. In theory, using the appropriate libs, you actually can have garbage collection in C++, you can program in C++ without ever touching pointers, you can have reflection, etc. Basically, the right libs can transform C++ into a much higher-level langauge (see some C++-based 2D game engines for a hint; but in fact I think it would be possible to do even better). In practice, there are some problems with this approach, but let's not dive into this too deeply right now, it's a big topic. Anyway, in many cases, C++ + libs is still more complicated than using something like Flash or C# that give you lots of stuff out-of-the-box, but it also gives you more flexibility and expressive power. Flash may force you to use a specific solution built into the language, while in C++ you may be able to switch to a different lib, or go low-level and roll your own solution.

    3. As I see, the real advantage of Flash is that it runs on a virtual machine, and on a VM that is virtually installed on every single PC in the world. You don't need any porting, you readily have lots of users who can just start playing your game right away, download sizes are small because this VM architecure, etc. However, as technology advances, cloud computing and similar approaches may become a viable alternative, effectively making it possible to make games in whatever language, including “traditional” langauages like C++, and then play them just as easily as Flash games today.

    4. C++ has the BIG advantage of having lots and lots of different libraries and middleware. Sure there's more and more Flash middleware everyday, I'm just not sure which one will come first: the day when we have as much middleware for Flash as for C++, or the day when we can play C++ games as easily as Flash.

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      Those are good points. There may be other browser plug-ins for games such as Unity and Instant Action, but they will not have the same installed base of Flash for a LONG, long time, which you pointed out in #3 of your comment. As to Flash middleware, watch for our Push Button Engine coming soon. We took all we learned from making our C++ middleware engine, Torque, and used that to make our new engine and Flash middleware solution.

    • http://coderhump.com Ben Garney

      1. Very true. Although Flash has a big lead and as long as they do a good job I think they'll keep it.

      2. Sure, and I can fake pointers in QBasic. But practically, Flash has a lot of nice high-level features built right into the language, and that does help. First-class XML is a big win. Closures are really nice. I gave a talk at GDC last year about why AS3 is a good language: http://coderhump.com/gdc08/

      Of course, I still write C++ on a regular basis. It's a great language. But AS3 has reach, maintainability, and a lot of good middleware.

      3. AMD would love for us to buy thousands of their GPUs to run in a cloud, but latency is king. On the other hand, Alchemy brings the very real possibility of using Flash as a web-deployable virtualization platform.

      4. AS3 has a pretty good set of middleware. I don't often find myself saying, “oh, if I only had library X I could really make something cool.” You have image loaders, zlib, decent 3d libraries, good bitmap manipulation, pretty good network APIs. Of course, I'm using PBEngine for my daily development, and it fixes a lot of things I consider warts. But that's ease of use, not possibility.

  • RoyWiz

    Yea. I gues I see your point. Flash is quite a niche for games. Gamers Blog

  • http://cuocthiseo.us.tc CuocThiseo

    With me flash games are best, it easy and just for fun do not spend lots of time on them.

  • Jean J Abts

    you are on my rss reader now

  • http://www.onlineflashgames.org Free Flash Games

    Flash is indeed a “virtual console” with a lot of the issues worked out… and on the cheap. As a bonus, you CAN'T code in C++ with it client side… that is always a plus in my book :)

  • Custom Flash Banner

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  • http://www.greatgaminggame.com Gaming Gamer

    i am always playing online flash game :0
    maybe you are correct, flash game can be leading since it is simple and file is small

  • http://www.flobzoo.com/ games to play

    Web browser games have seen their revenues growing in the last months. People tend to spend more times because they are free with great quality on the end. The flash technologies offer many possibilities to developers and 3D artists too. By the way, great post from the webmaster :)